Making wall art for her own home was a stepping stone for Ashley Breitkopf to start her own business.
The Norfolk County resident started Shaded Pines in 2018 at age 19 and has been slowly growing the business ever since. Shaded Pines makes a variety of laser cut and engraved signs, wall art and home décor pieces which she sells through an online store, attracting customers by being active on social media.
Ashley was making some wall art for her home and decided to list a blanket ladder – used to hang throws or towels – for sale online.
“One ladder turned into 50+ ladders and from there I discovered wood burning, scroll saw art and eventually CNC and laser cutting, which is what I do now,” says Ashley, now 22.
“I never really decided on a business idea, things just sort of snowballed into what I do now.”
Like many small business owners, Ashley likes being her own boss and having control over what she does, noting she can decide on what products she makes or discontinues.
Also like many small business owners, Ashley has learned how to operate a business one step at a time along the way. She has faced many challenges, such as how to handle taxes, manage customer service and run social media pages. Fortunately, she’s able to turn to her parents for advice, as both parents run businesses. Her parents, her brother and her sister all help with business tasks.
Ashley’s advice to people thinking of starting a small business is about persistence. “If the first idea or product that you release isn’t as successful as you hoped, just try again, don’t give up,” she says.
Small Business Week
Small businesses like Shaded Pines are being celebrated during Small Business Week 2021 in Canada, Oct. 17 – 23.
It makes sense to celebrate small businesses, since a staggering 97% of businesses in Canada – 1.2 million in total – meet the official Statistics Canada definition of having 1 to 99 employees. Two-thirds of all employees in the country work for a small business, which has been described as the “backbone” of the economy.
Small businesses are just as important to the economy and workforce of Grand Erie.
There are more than 23,000 small businesses, including those without employees, in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk. The majority of those businesses are in real estate, agriculture and construction, along with retail stores, restaurants and bars.
At the smallest level, as of June 2021 there were 15,700 businesses owned and operated by a single entrepreneur, without employees. The highest number are in real estate, farming and professional services.
There were another 4,100 “micro businesses” which employ 1 to 4 people and 1,500 businesses that employ 5 to 9 people. Many of these are in the trades, truck transportation and professional services such as law, accounting, engineering, marketing and consulting.
And there’s another 1,700 businesses that employ 10 to 99 people, with the highest concentration in food services, drinking places, agriculture, food stores and specialty trades contracting. But that figure would also include smaller manufacturers.
There’s a wide variety of resources and supports for small business in Grand Erie and Canada, including access to grants and loans, advice on starting, growing and marketing a business, doing online sales, and networking where business owners share their success stories and challenges.
Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC): Has organized Small Business Week for more than 40 years. It has organized a week of events for Small Business Week 2021, including online panel discussions and guest speakers.
Brantford-Brant Business Resource Centre (BRC): Provides advice, information, free workshops and resources to start and grow a small business.
Enterprise Brant: Promotes community development in Brantford and Brant County by offering small business loans and free business counselling.
Venture Norfolk: Provides support for Norfolk County businesses with free consultation and access to small business loans.
Grand Erie Business Centre: Also supports Haldimand County businesses with free consulting services and access to small business loans.
Business organizations: There are about a dozen organizations in Grand Erie that bring together and represent businesses, including chambers of commerce, boards of trade and business improvement areas (BIAs).